Future of Historical Network Research, Hamburg

  • Posted on: 15 September 2013
  • By: Erick

On Sunday, September 15, PhD candidates Julia Damerow and Erick Peirson gave an invited presentation at the Future of Historical Network Research conference in Hamburg, Germany, titled "Don't Panic! A research system for network-based digital history of science." Their presentation was a part of a panel on overlaps between Network Analysis and the Digital Humanities, and focused on the Vogon and Quadriga text-annotation platform (developed by the ASU Digital Innovation Group) as a method for building historical network datasets from large text corpora. Erick described the Genecology Project as an example of how the Vogon/Quadriga platform can be implemented for collaborative research in the history of science.


According to the conference organizers:

The concepts and methods of social network analysis in historical research are no longer merely used as metaphors but are increasingly applied in practice. In the last decades several studies proved that formal methods derived from social network analysis can be fruitfully applied to selected bodies of historical data as well. This relational perspective on historical sources has helped historical research to gain an entirely new methodological vantage point. Historical Network Research today is a research method as well as an online and offline training framework and quickly growing research community.

The HNR conference was an exciting and invigorating opportunity to engage with researchers from a wide range of fields, and we are looking forward to a continued involvement with the HNR community.

The abstract for Julia & Erick's presentation:

In this presentation we describe a new suite of tools under development at ASU for building historical networks collaboratively using digitized texts, and an example of how we are putting those tools to work in a student-run historical research project. We have begun to reconstruct networks of scientific exchange among British plant scientists working in the field of "genecology" (or "experimental taxonomy"), as part of a larger investigation concerning the history of post-WW2 ecology and evolutionary theory. These networks are valuable for addressing questions about research traditions that contributed to conceptual and methodological shifts in evolutionary and ecological research, in the context of various institutional arrangements. We use a text-annotation tool called Vogon in conjunction with a constellation of web services -- developed by a team of computer science students at ASU -- to encode relationships among scientists, institutions, and organisms in the form of nested contextualized triples, or "quadruples," using digitized texts stored in a community repository. This system provides simple methods for capturing temporal information, relies on an authority file service, and links individual network components to specific evidence in digitized texts. We think that this approach opens up exciting new directions for network-oriented digital historical research that is collaborative and scalable, and suggests new ways for historians and their audiences to interact with digital materials and data. We are eager to solicit feedback about these methods and their applications.